Yasser Arafat once again emerged defiant from an Israeli pounding of his West Bank compound, but there were growing signs that his leadership of the Palestinians was becoming tenuous. Although the Bush administration warned Israel against harming or toppling Arafat, it also sharpened its criticism of him, using such terms as "untrustworthy" and reaching out to more moderate Palestinians. Meanwhile, however, Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombing of an Israeli bus, said such attacks would continue because "martyrdom is the sole choice to regain our rights." (Story, page 1.)

Hopes grew for an easing of tensions between India and Pakistan as the latter's president told a visiting senior US envoy he "won't be the one to initiate a war." Pervez Musharraf met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the first of two high-profile Bush administration officials sent to the region to try to defuse the Kashmir crisis. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is due there next week. Armitage planned to go on to India's capital, where government leaders said there was room for "many proposals" to avoid a fourth war with Pakistan. Above, an Indian soldier peers from his post on the front lines in Kashmir. (Related story, page 6.)

Ten-foot-high security fences were erected around the site in Kabul of the meeting where Afghanistan's transitional government will be chosen. The loya jirga, or traditional council of 1,501 elected delegates is due to begin work Monday. Analysts said the delegates almost certainly would strip the Northern Alliance, which helped to liberate Afghanistan, of at least one of its three powerful cabinet ministries: interior, foreign affairs, and defense.

Police were hunting for three people who got off a packed commuter bus in Indonesia's volatile Central Sulawesi province shortly before a bomb exploded aboard Wednesday, killing at least four passengers and injuring 17 others. The region has a lengthy history of violence between Muslims and Christians, but the two sides signed an accord last December. The incident called into question the claims of military commanders that peace was taking hold in the province.

A record-high 8,424 candidates were competing for the 577 seats in France's lower house of parliament as voters prepared to go to the polls Sunday. A late opinion survey found almost exactly half of respondents hoped for a victory by the political right, to give reelected President Jacques Chirac "a strong and coherent majority." Chirac, who defeated ultrarightist Jean-Marie Le Pen last month, has governed since 1997 with the opposition Socialists holding a majority of 248 seats. A second round of legislative elections will be held June 16.

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